The carriage had no windows, only small ports, and a couple of holes to let air circulate inside and out. Aside from Yuna and I, the coachman and the two other horses were our only companions on this boring trip. Yuna felt uncomfortable in the carriage, well, as if she had another choice for transportation. She spent the rest of the day playing with the orbs I conjured to keep her busy. The orbs weren't just floating balls of psychic power, they responded to her commands, kept her company, snuggled in her arm, and everything else a small flying pet would do.
Though I think my understanding of pets is a bit... out of place?
Ever since what happened to Nina, I wanted to distance myself from Yuna bit by bit. However, she had no fault nor was she even aware of her sister's underhanded intentions and acts. Whenever the memory of Nina's treachery flashed in my mind, I would feel a deep rage build inside my heart.
But just like any emotion, it could be removed, used, or exploited by directing it at something, be it another being, another person, place, thing, or phenomenon, all you needed to do was direct it at something compatible.
In my case, for some odd reason I don't wanna explore further, my rage would dissipate if I were to witness Yuna's innocence. That shine in her eyes that accompanied her blue hue. Her smile glowed as if I was staring at a being of pure magnificence. There was something else about her, something mysterious, and powerful underneath that childish appearance.
Yet her innocence was unrivaled in its ability to ease my anger and calm my mind.
She would sometimes ask if she could place her head on my lap so she could take a short nap. Her definition of a short nap was quite shrewd because apparently a nap that took seven hours was 'short' or maybe because she was a child so she actually would sleep longer normally?
I didn't know. I never paid attention to her sleeping schedule when we found ourselves in the forest.
Now that I thought about it, I should have at least stole or gotten a map to gain an idea of the surrounding lands and the region as a whole. My enhanced sense could extend itself thousands of kilometers in all directions and by doing so I would be able to draw my own map in my mind. However, the act of doing something as big as that would take quite a lot of psychic power to use and would accumulate a considerable amount of psychic heat if I did it so suddenly.
If I was just any other psychic.
Unfortunately for the universe, I was not.
I could do it quite easily but the only thing preventing me from actually doing it was the fact that if I did suddenly expand my enhance sense to see half of the world at once, it would send an energy signature so powerful and so universal it would be detected by most measuring instruments that either measured frequencies, radiation, and even those used to detect seismic activity.
Though such instruments may or may not actually exist, the fact still remained that 'magic' was a thing and a dangerous thing that could counter whatever the hell I threw at it.
That 'spell' Nina gave me when I was in the library, I didn't feel it. My enhanced and psychic senses were completely oblivious to the fact that something was tampering with my inner judgment and perception of truths and lies. I realized that if such a 'simple spell' could undermine my own defenses so effectively then what if I was confronted with something far worse?
In the meantime, I needed to be in full alert. I must not give my enemies or supposed allies any leisure or chance to be a step ahead of me. Thus, all my defenses had been maxed out. My psychic defense against mental and psychological threats was at their most potent and so were my barriers. The outer barrier was potent enough to melt any projectile in less than a second while the skin barrier had its normal properties as usual.
Because it was already maxed out from the beginning.
My combined psychic powers made me twice, if not, thrice as powerful than before and with that advantage, I was certain I was the most powerful psychic on this planet. Still, I couldn't help but be wary that something as simple as a magic bullet may pierce even my skin.
All the more reason to strike first and fast.
As Yuna once again fell asleep on my lap, my enhanced sense informed me that the sun was nearly setting. We had spent the entire day on this carriage. Yuna ate, drank, and played inside the entire day without even seeing the light of the sun outside. There were a few boxes under our coaches that had the food and water Yuna needed. I could tell it was meant for four people but since I didn't need to sustain myself at all, for now, everything was for Yuna to enjoy.
Before she ate, I made sure to check the food and water to make sure none had any poisons. If something were to happen to this innocent little girl who had already gone through enough...
Her helplessness alone and her innocence that blinded her about the world reminded me of that time I was powerless.
None came to my aid when I needed it the most...
When mother needed it most.
That memory, that wretched memory continued to flash inside my head whenever the thought of Yuna being hurt or being put in danger appeared.
She still had time, she still had a chance. Her mother may be dead, her sister may be a good-for-nothing wench, but she... she still had hope. And as someone who wanted this world to know that word, I would need to first save her from hope's greatest enemy.
As day turned into the night, I was alerted by a massive surge of psychic leakage emanating at the direction we were headed for.
"Sire, we're now near the city," The coachman suddenly said. Using my enhanced sense, I was able to confirm that we were indeed near a city. It was going to be my first time visiting a city from this medieval fantasy world. It would be quite the experience. It would be wrong if I said I disliked our couple of weeks in the wilderness but it was also refreshing to be able to return to a major population center.
It was a walled city roughly eight square kilometers in size. Crop fields surrounded the outer region of the city beyond the stone walls that towered as high as 32 feet. I sensed a large number of entities on the walls and inside the city. From what I could deduce, the population was a hefty estimate between 300,000 to 500,000.
A very, very large population for a city in a period which I and many scholars would consider to be a dark time for such metropolises since food, hygiene, and some other basic necessities would be in conditions too dire in terms of technological advancement to be able to sustain such a population.
Well, of course, there was magic I still needed to consider.
Judging by how these crop fields were vast and healthy, the harvests may even exceed the needs of the city and thus could sustain a surplus of food that could actually support a growing population. If magic had anything to do with it, it would be worth considering since surely I could exploit the shortcomings of this world's technological progress with knowledge from my era.
Hm, people need work and work that pays well, feeds well. If people are fed well, they work better and if they work better, they become more efficient and yield higher results. Of course, it was and still is a shallow and narrow way of seeing what exactly happens in an economy.
I wondered how this world's economy worked. If everything were run by nobles then that would be a problem. If the economy was run by both nobles and the merchant class, then that will be a different story.
The thought of exploiting them for my end-goal filled me with great pride realizing that my effects on this world from the start would be enough to change history.
Though I had a feeling that my fight with the psychic entity in the form of a green stone might have had unintended consequences that were going to stab me in the back in the future soon. The fact that our battle seemed as if we destroyed the night sky would have undoubtedly caused mass panics.
What were the religions in this land? Those organizations I must be most wary of. I must assume that they possess grand power that could rival governments due to magic.
Huh, it had gotten way more interesting.
The carriage was asked to stop just as we were under the open gates. I was surprised the gate, large as it was, was still open despite dusk finally settling. Considering the high number of garrisons, it may not be such a bad idea after all. I watched with my enhanced sense of what was going on outside. The coachman was prompted to present a document with a insignia and signature of unknown writing and origin, to me at least, by the iron clad guards. The guards were swordsman with a short sword and shield to back them up. Their treatment of the coachman was that of respect and I figured the document he gave had something to do with it.
Though my psychic sense had so far managed to translate verbal communication between this world's inhabitants and me, it was still processing the writing system.
It would have been nice if I was able to understand what was written on that parchment.
After five minutes, the guards let us through the gate and into the city we went. Surprisingly, the streets were not as deserted as I had expected. There were people walking around, some were sat on chairs in front of their homes as children played around in the streets. The streets were not made of dirt either, the streets were paved with stone bricks made from lime and... volcanic ash? Interesting.
If there was volcanic ash in the mix then that would mean there was a volcano nearby be it an active, dead, or dormant one. Their utilization of these bricks was superb and I would like to congratulate the architects and engineers who came up with this. They were pioneers of their time. The structures were also made of bricks and wood. The designs of which were what you would expect from a medieval period but with more stone than wood.
My enhanced sense combined with my psychic sense had finished mapping out the city from top to bottom, north to south, east to west. There was a crude sewage system under these streets that would need daily cleaning but it was still better than nothing. There was a castle, or should I say, a palace in the middle of the city with its own set of walls and towers. Security was tight and I assumed we were headed there due to the path the carriage was taking.
If the letter was indeed from Count Maris then why were their no guards escorting us? Surely, if Yuna was royalty then that would that not mean providing her with an escort?
Or maybe they were already informed of me?
No, I had barely just arrived at that village and left the next day with Yuna. There must be something happening behind the scenes of which I was not aware of.
Well then, come at me.
The same procedure was repeated at the palace gates. After the shorter process of handing over the parchment to be checked by the guards, we were allowed in. My enhanced sense was detecting energy above us, standing at the top of the towers. Not in the tower, no, at the very top of it, on the roof. They numbered three in total and as soon as the carriage went inside the palace grounds, the signatures jumped down.
And landed as if it was just a normal routine.
Three women in tight suits made from thick leather, silk, cotton, and imbued with strange energy which I assumed to be magic, surrounded the carriage and proceeded to escort us until the carriage was in front of the stairs which led to the palace.
The carriage stopped and the coachmen knocked on the wall.
"Sire, it is time for you and her majesty to get out," He said.
Wasn't it customary for someone else outside to open the door for us? Well, it wasn't that I mind opening a door.
"Yuna," I whispered into Yuna's ear. She slowly opened her eyes, sat straight, and rubbed her eyes.
"Are we.. at Auntie?" She said lazily.
"So this Maris is your aunt?" I asked.
Yuna looked at me.
"Yep!" She smiled.
She seemed fond of Countess Maris. It was going to be interesting meeting her for the first time. I didn't want to make a scene but I also didn't want to be underestimated. I must assume that they were already informed in advance about our arrival and that some strange man, in strange clothes, and strange powers was with one of the daughters of the Emperor.
After making my psychic aura more visible to those with keen perceptions of auras in general, it was time for us to head out. I wondered if the intensity of the aura was enough? Yuna wasn't affected by it at all even though we were still inside this cramped space of a carriage.
I then pushed the door of the carriage open and lo the outside world and its beauty were revealed. The palace was painted cream with banners hanging over corners, walls, and massive flags fluttered up high at the peaks. The image of an eagle in a sea of flames was on every flag and banner in colors of red and white. As I stepped out, I was greeted by one of the three women in tight suits.
She bowed her head and said;
"Welcome, I am pleased to finally meet the esteemed person our princesses met during their perilous kidnapping," She said in a formal tone. I gave her a nod of approval and then helped Yuna step down from the carriage.
"Your majesty!" The two other women behind her exclaimed and bowed.
"Hi..." Yuna replied. She seemed shy and I wondered why. She didn't have any trouble being herself when she was near me so this was a surprise.
The two ladies then walked forward and tried taking her hand but Yuna backed away and hid behind me. The ladies then stopped and frowned slightly before gulping. I could see that they were sweating ever so slightly.
Actually, they were in high alert and not just them, but the entire palace was. I could sense the killing intent and fear from approximately a thousand guards over the walls, the corridors, the halls, and the ones outside the palace. I sensed the same psychological products from the women though they weren't that fearful.
Was I actually giving off too thick of an aura?
Well, Yuna didn't mind but I guessed I needed to weaken it still. So I did, after weakening the aura that surrounded me, the atmosphere of the place calmed down. One of the ladies even sighed. They must have thought I had the intention of doing them harm.
"I apologize for our rudeness," The first lady said, "But Count Maris has requested a private audience with you, Milord. Her Highness Yuna will be placed under the care of the palace maids and will be guarded by my partners,"
A private audience with the countess huh.
I peered through the three women to see how exactly their bodies were built. From what I could see, their muscles, joints, and even their breathing had been tuned for faster-than-normal exercises. These ladies were a strike group meant to go behind lines to stab the enemy on their backs. It explained why their suits were as they were but I figured that the suits were actually too tight. Most of their body was covered except for the head and... chest?
Anyhow, at least their long hair wouldn't get in the way because of their ponytails.
"Go on," I looked at Yuna. She was hesitant at first but as soon as I promised I'd go back for her, she complied.
Maybe she did not trust these people as much as I had thought.
It was time for me to meet Countess Maris. With my mental and physical defenses at their max, I felt confident I wouldn't be exposed to magic spells that undermined my security.
The two ladies escorted Yuna inside while I and the other lady waited till they were out of sight.
"Tell me your name," I asked suddenly. The lady looked at me with a confused look before speaking.
"Ah, I apologize milord. I am Helena Hyu," She answered.
It was strange she didn't tell me her name sooner when she introduced herself.
"And you must be...?" She asked awkwardly. Her social skills were a failure and I was surprised she was the one appointed to keep me company.
An awkward silence then fell upon us and I was taking the brunt of it. She was also blushing and looking everywhere.
What kind of weirdo was she?
And weren't we supposed to enter once the others were out of sight? They already went out a minute ago but she still wasn't leading me inside.
After waiting for another five minutes, the awkward lady finally led me inside. She looked like she was waiting for some sort of signal from somewhere I could not see. However, I could sense just what it was. It was a repeating signal using a frequency akin to that of a radio broadcast. My enhanced sense detected it not long after the signal began and its point of origin was at the highest floor in the palace, presumably from the Countess.
Despite the signal being similar to radio waves, I was not that convinced this world had such technology. It was most likely just some sort of instrument used for sending messages without the threat of detection by the enemy.
As we walked through the gilded halls of this grand palace, I became the center of attention for everyone we came across. We passed by maids, a lot of guards, butlers, and some highly-decorated individuals whose ages ranged from the early 20s to 50s and most of them had this condescending look against me. I paid them no attention, it wasn't worth my time nor was it even necessary to correct their judgmental nature since I had more important things to attend to. Aside from the highly-decorated men and women, the rest of the people we came across all had the same look on their eyes.
They found my clothing weird and my presence concerning. Though my aura was at its lowest due to how sensitive these people actually were, it seemed like it still caused mild misunderstandings.
However, I wasn't really keen in calling their reactions misunderstandings. For my hands, my powers, and my soul was nothing but a broken vase filled with the blood of the innocent, the guilty, and the damned whose cries and pleas for help leaked through the cracks and the holes.
I could feel countless hands grabbing the back of my mind, shouting at me to join them. Their screams, their wails, all of it stuck inside my head as I began my journey as a beacon of hope.
I knew for a fact that even if I managed to achieve what I wanted, there were still things I will never attain and one such unattainable thing was...
I noticed that security was indeed as tight as I had expected. Guards clad in iron from head to toe, armed with a shield and a short sword could be seen in every entrance of every corridor and hall. Entire sections had at least fifty to a hundred guards stationed to protect whatever was in those rooms, be they documents, riches, or important individuals of the state.
After walking up the seemingly endless flights of stairs, we were now at the entrance of the Countess' throneroom. The design of the doors, of the walls, the decorations, the silks, the ribbons in strewn about under the ceiling. The entire palace was one giant projection of this city's power, wealth, and influence and was clearly meant to antagonize and galvanize whoever beheld the beauty.
Though I applauded the effort done to make this palace as grand as it was, it still was a complete waste of resources to have everything gilded. The furniture, the frames, it was all too much. Gold back in my reality was only good as currency, or something about a gold standard or whatever. It was an archaic system they suddenly implemented back when I took power. Still, gold was not durable nor was it reliable. Hell, I could even see that the guards guarding the entrance to the throne room had gilded armor! One swift blow and that gold will break apart, possibly even piercing their insides with small shards that would be damn near impossible to remove.
Most importantly, you can't eat gold.
Helena stepped up and signaled the guards to open the door. The guards nodded and at the same time, began pushing the doors open. Slowly, the door creaked and the throne room was revealed to us both. Dimly lit yet sparkled with glamour and wealth. A red carpet was laid from the entrance up to the small stairs that led to the golden throne. Upon that throne sat the Countess, dressed in a velvet dress with lips as dark as crimson and eyes that shone purple. Her white hair signified that she was indeed the Yuna's auntie yet the difference in eye color raised questions inside my mind.
There were also seventy guards standing on each side of the carpet with spears in hand. The spears were made of a material I wasn't familiar with yet my psychic sense was telling me the material used was at least three times as durable and effective as steel.
The atmosphere the countess exuded was that of beauty and authority, I was not going to contest that she was, in fact, a beauty if I were to judge her from a human point of view. Her complexion as fair as it naturally could be, her sharp eyes gazed through the intricacies of what was in front of her.
Huh, she reminded me of someone.
But that didn't matter. I did not let her presence outweigh my own and thus, I looked back at her with my own sharp eyes glowing a yellow hue.
She then raised her right hand. It was a signal for everyone to leave except for the guest apparently. All the guards suddenly twisted in my direction and marched out. Helena was no longer the awkward lady she was a few seconds ago as she and I both walked inside as the last guard exited.
The doors behind us shut close and now only the three of us remained.
It was time for the talks to happen. What exactly would transpire, I had no clue of but I knew it was important.
"Step forward," Countess Maris spoke. Her voice imbued with authority and seductiveness. I complied and walked forward ten steps while Helena kept her head down.
I then stopped in my tracks, looked at her with a glare, and waited for her next move. The atmosphere around us had become tense as if two beings of immense power were facing off. Trying to subdue the other by sheer pressure alone yet none were faltering.
If I were to compare our confrontation with that of my battle with the psychic stone, this would be pathetic.
However, I needed to see where this would take me. I needed not to expose my powers too early but only show enough to warrant respect and trust.
She was a leader and presumably a dotting aunt. She wouldn't want a weak, conniving, and condescending bastard as her niece's guardian right?
Unfortunately for her, weak was the only thing I wasn't.